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    Sunak to face Tory rebellion over generational smoking ban bill

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    Prime minister Rishi Sunak is facing another rebellion from his party as Tobacco and Vapes Bill, the landmark legislation which would bar anyone born after 2009 from buying cigarettes, is due to be debated in parliament for the first time today (16).

    Rishi Sunak’s bill aims to create the UK’s first smoke-free generation in a major public health intervention by bringing phased generational ban on buying cigarettes. The bill would ensure anyone turning 15 from this year would be banned from buying cigarettes, and also aims to make vapes less appealing to children.

    The bill would make the sale of tobacco products, rather than the act of smoking, illegal. Anyone who can legally buy tobacco at the moment will be able to continue to do so if the Bill becomes law. Trading standards officers will be able to issue fines to retailers who ignore the new restrictions, with the revenue raised redirected to fund further enforcement.

    Sunak sees the Tobacco and Vapes Bill as a key part of his long-term legacy as he bids to “stamp out smoking for good”. However, he is set to face opposition to the Bill from within his own party as many prominent Tories have spoken out against the Bill.

    The Tobacco and Vapes Bill will be debated at its second reading this afternoon ahead of the first vote on the legislation. Conservative MPs have been granted a free vote, meaning they can vote with their personal conscience rather than follow the official party line.

    Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss, described the plans as “profoundly unconservative”, while former prime minster Boris Johnson last week described the ban as “nuts”.

    Johnson attacked Sunak’s generational smoking ban in a lament about the state of the Conservative party in Britain. Speaking at an event in Canada on Wednesday (10) night, Johnson said it was “mad” that the party of Winston Churchill was “banning cigars”.

    Johnson sais, “We are, on the whole, in favour of freedom and it is that single Anglo-Saxon idea of freedom that I think unites conservatives, or should unite conservatives. And when I look at some of the things that we are doing now, or that are being done in the name of conservatism, I think they are absolutely nuts.”

    Smokers’ lobbying group Forest has questioned the decision to prioritise restrictions on purchasing tobacco in the face of multiple other domestic and international problems.

    “If you are legally an adult, it’s ageist if you are denied the same rights as adults who may be only a year or two older than you are,” said Forest’s director, Simon Clark. He cited a poll that found 64 per cent of the public believed people should be allowed to buy cigarettes if they were allowed to drive a car, join the army, possess a credit card, buy alcohol and vote at 18.

    Meanwhile, England’s chief medical officer, Sir Chris Whitty, rejected the “pro-choice” arguments against the Bill.

    Supporting the ban, Whitty said once people become addicted to smoking “their choice is taken away”.

    The plans are believed to have been inspired by a sweeping crackdown planned by New Zealand’s previous government. However, the county’s new Government has moved to repeal the law after winning power in October 2023, saying it would help fund tax cuts.

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